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Board erred in relying on an inadequate medical opinion to deny service connection for sarcoidosis

Board erred in relying on an inadequate medical opinion to deny service connection for sarcoidosis

Summary

The Veteran served on active duty in the United States Army from March 1969 to January 1971.  When returning from service the Veteran suffered difficulty breathing.  In 2005, the Veteran filed a claim for service connection and compensation for his lung condition.  The VA denied his claim.  In response, the Veteran filed another claim for service connection in December 2007.  This claim was denied as well and the Veteran appealed once more.  In March 2016, the Veteran’s claim for service connection was once again denied.

Board denied service connection for the Veteran’s sarcoidosis

In May 2016, the Board denied service connection for the Veteran’s sarcoidosis.  They based their findings on a December 2015 medical opinion which opined that the Veteran’s sarcoidosis was not related to service.  The Board found the examination probative because the examiner reviewed the claims file, the Veteran’s reported history, and lay statements.  In addition, the examiner cited to medical literature, and supported her conclusions with an adequate rationale.

CCK appeals to the Court

CCK successfully appealed to the Court the May 2016 denial of service connection for the Veteran’s sarcoidosis.  In its decision, the Board failed to satisfy its duty to assist as the December 2015 medical opinion was inadequate.  Specifically, the opinion failed to provide sufficient information regarding whether exposure to herbicides in service caused the Veteran’s sarcoidosis.

CAVC agrees with CCK’s arguments

CCK argued, and the Court agreed that the addendum opinion on which the Board relied was inadequate.  The Court found that the Board should not have relied on the examiner’s opinion that the etiology for sarcoidosis was not definitively known.  Instead, the relevant question is whether it is at least as likely as not that an in-service incident linked to sarcoidosis.  The Court also noted when evaluating record evidence, it cannot demand a level of acceptance in the scientific community (51%) greater than the level of proof required by the benefit of the doubt rule (50%).  The Court remanded the claim for further adjudication of the Veteran’s service connection claim for sarcoidosis.

Category: Court Wins

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